Religious Marriage Contracts
TIP: Despite their kinship to contemporary family law, religious marriage contracts are not part of civil law and should be supplemented by prenuptial agreements drawn up by your lawyers.
Prenuptial agreements grow in popularity as couples realize marriage is serious business, but religious marriage agreements and contracts have been around almost as long as Adam and Eve. Ancient Semitic cultures used them to protect the wife and any children born to the couple. More recently, a Covenant Marriage Agreement movement among some Christian groups has emerged to counteract growing divorce rates.
At Jewish weddings, a husband gives his wife a “Ketubah,” a written contract in which he pledges to work for, honor, provide for and support her “in truth.” The document, signed by the couple during the wedding ceremony, signifies that the couple sees marriage as a legal and moral commitment as well as a physical and emotional union. The Ketubah strengthens and affirms the wife’s dignified status and details the husband’s financial obligations, making provisions for the woman if the marriage ends in death or divorce.
Often a beautiful piece of calligraphy, the Ketubah is displayed in the couple’s home as a constant reminder of the obligations of marriage. If it is lost, they cannot live together until it is replaced.
All Islamic marriage contracts require a clause covering the dower, or gift to the bride, but they may also specify the wife’s financial independence and ownership of property, how specific items will be divided if the marriage ends in divorce and the right of the wife to initiate the divorce. Sometimes the contract even governs where the couple will live and who will do what household duties.
CHRISTIAN-BASED MARRIAGE COVENANTS
The Covenant Marriage Movement urges couples to sign a “Covenant Marriage Statement,” declaring that their individual marriages are lasting institutions. The statement reads: “Believing that marriage is a covenant, intended by God to be a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, we vow to God, each other, our families and our communities to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation and sexual purity while purposefully growing in our covenant marriage relationship.”
Covenant marriage laws have been passed in Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas.
To Learn More:
- The Ketubah: http://www.ahavat-israel.com/torat/marriage.html
- Islamic marriage law: www.mrc.org.uk/verdict.htm
- Marriage Covenant Movement: http://www.covenantmarriage.com/brooh1.htm